Trying 16-18 Year Olds As ‘Adults’ Under An Amended Juvenile Justice Act Is Just Plain Wrong

Posted on April 24, 2015 in Society, Specials

By Komal Ganotra:

We don’t currently have a copy of the new bill, however according to various media reports it is clear that the cabinet has approved the amendments to the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) Act. One of the major amendment approved by the cabinet includes treating juveniles between the age of 16 to 18 years as adults in cases of committing heinous offences. This particular change has taken place despite of clear recommendation of the parliamentary standing committee and members of the civil society opposing the particular clause. This is likely to have great implications and has the potential to challenge the whole justice paradigm for children – moving away from reformative to punitive. Through the change in the proposed Bill, children may be forced to spend their formative and productive years behind bars, rather than being reintegrated with society.

In India, the juvenile crime from the period 1990 to 2012 ranged between 0.5 to 1.2 per cent of total crimes committed. Juvenile crimes were only 1.2 per cent in 2012 and 2013 as compared to the child population of 472 million in 2013. Further analysis shows that out of the total number of juvenile cases, 79% belonged to families whose annual income levels were below Rs. 50,000/- , a telling fact that gives us an insight into their lives and struggles. Only 5,812 have completed their secondary education; 8,392 have never been to school, while almost equal proportions have studied at primary and above primary levels (13984 and 15423 respectively). The emphasis therefore at a systemic level, needs to be much more in terms of preventive policies and mechanism that can ensure a protective environment for each child.

About the author: Komal Ganotra is Director, Policy Research and Advocacy, CRY-Child Rights and You